NC State basketball recruiting violations lead to probation

Published 10:29 pm Tuesday, December 21, 2021

By Gary B. Graves

AP Sports Writer

North Carolina State men’s basketball program has been placed on probation for one year for NCAA recruiting violations following an independent investigation.

It was the first decision issued through the Independent Accountability Resolution Process, which was created out of proposals from the commission led by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2018 to reform college basketball amid the federal corruption investigation into the sport.

On Monday, the Independent Resolution Panel announced it had reduced scholarships and issued penalties for violations by a former Wolfpack head coach and assistant for violations tied to the recruitment of one-and-done player Dennis Smith Jr.

The penalties issued by the IRP included vacating victories in which Smith played; show-cause orders for former head coach Mark Gottfried and ex-assistant Orlando Early; public reprimand and censure.

More than 50 pages of the panel’s public report detailed numerous NCAA violations and concluded that N.C. State committed five that were Level I, which are considered the most serious infractions. Penalties for high-level infractions could have included a postseason ban, an option arbitrator and IRP chief member Dana Welch said was considered for a mitigating case such as this one.

“We looked at the range of penalties that have been imposed on other level one mitigating cases,” Welch said Monday in a virtual news conference. “And we basically determined that we didn’t want to hurt or punish these student athletes that are currently competing. We did, however, want the institution to take this very seriously.

“There were very serious recruiting violations here, so we looked at the range of penalties and instead we imposed an additional scholarship reduction penalty for 2022-23, which we felt specifically addressed issues of recruiting. Which is what this case was about.”

N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson said in a statement that the school accepted the panel’s decision and appreciated “its careful review of the facts.”

“When this process began NC State promised accountability where appropriate and vigorous defense where necessary,” he added, “and that is exactly what we’ve delivered every step of the way.

“NC State will deal with the implications, many of which include previously self-imposed penalties. We look forward to putting this matter behind us and embracing the incredible potential and bright future of men’s basketball.”

The former coaches were hit with stiffer penalties. Early received a six-year show-cause order for arranging a $40,000 cash direct payment, through a third-party outside consultant for sports apparel maker Adidas, to secure Smith’s enrollment. The IARP stated that the violations “demonstrate a reckless indifference to NCAA constitution and bylaws.”

Gottfried received a one-year show-case for failing to monitor Early, resulting in the impermissible benefits to Smith, the IARP said in a five-page statement.

Gottfried, who now coaches at Cal State Northridge but is on administrative leave, issued a statement through Raleigh-based attorney Elliot Abrams that the decision reiterates that he had no knowledge of or involvement in a payment.

“Although I am disappointed in the panel’s finding that I failed to sufficiently monitor, I appreciate the panel recognizing that the facts warrant a mitigated penalty,” Gottfried stated. “I am also pleased that NC State did not receive a postseason ban, am glad that this ordeal is over for NC State, and wish their basketball program all the best.”

The panel also concluded the school committed four Level II violations and two Level III violations.

The IARP accepted N.C. State’s self-imposed penalties that included the reduction of a scholarship for this academic year from 13; previously imposed reductions in the number of official visits from 2019 through 2021; a $5,000 fine; and four-week communications ban for this year.

The NCAA charged N.C. State with four violations in July 2019, accusing Early of providing payments and benefits connected to Smith’s recruitment.

The governing body alleged that from 2014-17, Early provided Smith and his associates approximately $46,700 in impermissible inducements and benefits — including $40,000 that a government witness testified he delivered to Early intended for Smith’s family in 2015.

N.C. State accepted the NCAA’s recommendation that its case go through the independent investigation process.

The investigations began in the wake of a federal investigation of corruption in college basketball that ensnared multiple programs in 2017. Four other schools — Arizona, Kansas, Louisville and LSU — still have related cases pending before the IARP.

Asked about the lengthy delays for many cases to be resolved, NCAA Vice President for Hearing Operations Derrick Crawford cited federal restrictions on the governing body’s investigation until April 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic. Welch added that the IARP didn’t begin reviewing cases until last year.

“None of us are pleased or happy with how long it’s taken,” Crawford said, “but I think the panel did a fantastic job in moving the case along as expeditiously as possible.”

Monday’s IARP decision comes eight days after the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions placed the Auburn men’s basketball program on four years probation  for unethical conduct involving former associate head coach Chuck Person. The organization suspended coach Bruce Pearl two games for failing to monitor his assistant and adequately promote compliance.